Public accommodations for transgender citizens has been at the forefront of North Carolina state politics with the passage of HB2, as well as a nationwide issue with the U.S. Department of Justice filing suit and the Obama administration issuing a directive to public schools requiring them to recognize transgender students by the gender with which they identify.
The Supreme Court will hear transgender student Gavin Grimm’s case claiming his high school’s policy preventing him to use the boy’s restrooms and locker rooms is unconstitutional.
The issue is most often framed in the context of schools, government buildings, such as courthouses, and the private businesses that choose to limit transgender bathroom use. It is also a concern in the prison system, which is discussed less often, but did get a mention during the third North Carolina gubernatorial debate.
“The governor of North Carolina runs the state prison system. I’ve got prisoners now, after this radical agenda has come to North Carolina, I’ve got male prisoners who want to be transferred to the female prison,” Gov. McCrory said in his final debate with opponents Attorney General Roy Cooper and Libertarian candidate Lon Cecil.
At press time, the outcome of the contested election was still pending. Based upon the results, HB2 may either continue its current path or it could be overturned.
The U.S. Justice Department issued new regulations in May 2016 to clarify guidelines it established in 2012, saying policies determining where inmates are housed based only on external genitals are a violation of federal guidelines. Those guidelines, however, are not legally binding, and policies vary from state to state.
“Schools and the prison system, when someone has an individual situation regarding their gender and identity, we’ve segregated and separated those individuals and made special arrangements,” McCrory said. “That’s what principals have been doing for years in North Carolina.”
McCrory stated, as he has done in the past, that he is opposed to discrimination, a strange claim to make alongside arguing for segregation. Either way, his summation of what happens with transgender inmates in the North Carolina prison system is misleading.
North Carolina evaluates each prisoner on a case-by-case basis, with a panel representing psychiatry, social work, primary care medicine, nursing and prison administration, the News & Observer reports. The review policy was put in place in 2014, replacing a policy that determined housing based on genitalia.
Inmates who say they are transgender are given a physical and mental evaluation, which includes questions about their history both before and during incarceration, with questions concerning their mental health and life experiences.
It is then determined whether they should be housed with male or female inmates, taking into consideration their safety.
According to federal statistics, over a third of transgender inmates report being victimized by sexual assault, compared to just four percent of the total prison population.
Transgender inmates who are already on hormone therapy when they are sent to prison are allowed to continue using it once approved.
Last year, California became the first state in the nation to agree to pay for the surgery for a transgender inmate, Shiloh Quine, after determining that her gender dysphoria could only be cured through the procedure.
Earlier in the year, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal to a case in which a transgender inmate, Michelle Kosilek, lost her attempt to have the Massachusetts Department of Corrections pay for the surgery.
In September of this year, it was announced that Chelsea Manning, convicted for leaking national security secrets to WikiLeaks, would be permitted to have sex reassignment surgery. The Pentagon repealed its ban on allowing transgender troops to serve in July and announced that it would begin allowing medical treatment for transgender troops, including sex reassignment surgery.